July 11, 2018 / 4:04 AM / 8 days ago

Salvadoran president must testify over 1979 diplomat disappearance: court

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador’s Supreme Court said on Tuesday President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former guerrilla leader, must give evidence over the disappearance of a South African diplomat kidnapped in the run-up to the country’s bloody civil war.

El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren participates in a graduation ceremony at the Command of Doctrine and Military Education in San Salvador, El Salvador, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

The ruling came after the family of then-South African ambassador Archibald Gardner Dunn filed a lawsuit blaming ex-guerrilla group the Liberation People’s Forces (FPL), of which Sanchez Ceren was a leader, for his kidnapping on Nov. 28, 1979.

According to the lawsuit, the FPL never revealed Gardner Dunn’s whereabouts even though a ransom of $2 million was paid for his release. Gardner Dunn’s family filed a habeas corpus request to the court to find out what happened to him.

El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren participates in a graduation ceremony at the Command of Doctrine and Military Education in San Salvador, El Salvador, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Salvadoran media reported in October 1980 that Gardner Dunn was executed by the FPL. The diplomat’s family said in the lawsuit they had had no solid information on his fate.

The office of the Salvadoran president, who is now 74, did not reply to a request for comment.

El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war pitted the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) against the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army. The FMLN was formed from a merger of several dissident leftist groups, including the FPL.

The war killed some 75,000 people and left 8,000 missing.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Paul Tait

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